Collingwood forward Dan McStay will make a miraculous return to football this weekend after overcoming an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in November last year.

McStay will feature in the VFL side that faces Geelong at Victoria Park on Saturday in a bid to make a case for Craig McRae's later in the year.

The former Lion was one of the heartbreak stories of the 2023 premiership, having missed the decider against his old club with a separate knee injury he sustained in the preliminary final win against GWS.

With an eye on a big pre-season and second campaign in the black and white, McStay was downed with a serious knee injury that usually rules out a player for around 12 months.

However, with a determined approach to feature in 2024, all news from the Pies said that the 28-year-old consistently put his best foot forward in his rehabilitation and the results show.

McStay will return to competitive football 295 days after his last outing.

“Yeah, Dan's going to play VFL this week. He's been out for eight months, and it's a testament to how hard he's worked to get his chance to come back and play,' McRae said on Wednesday.

“At AFL level, you can't play with compromise, in terms of if you want to play a certain amount of minutes, and come off and get some treatment or whatever.

“We can't do that at AFL level … at VFL level we can, so Dan will play VFL some minutes.”

The positive news continued with veteran forward Jamie Elliot more than likely to suit up for the first time since Round 8.

“If training form is anything to go by, he'll be hard not to pick,” McRae said.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15: Jeremy Howe of the Magpies warms up during the 2024 AFL Round 01 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Sydney Swans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 15, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

However, the news wasn't as optimistic for Jeremy Howe, who appears unlikely to face the Cats in Round 18.

Howe experienced some hamstring awareness earlier in the week and was seen leaving the track on Wednesday with the same issue.

“Apparently, he had some awareness at training on Tuesday – we got a scan, and there was nothing on the scan, then he comes and trains today and he's still got a bit of awareness,” McRae said.

“I don't know what that means, it's probably obvious that he won't play though.”

With Howe likely to be absent and Brody Mihocek ruled out for the remainder of the season, the door opens for Ash Johnson to return to the senior side after kicking five goals in the VFL.

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Johnson has struggled in his three outings in 2024, remaining goalless on each occasion but showed signs he's ready for the elite level.

“I was really pleased to go down to Frankston and watch Ash perform at his best. Someone who we've just been wanting to come out of himself and grow,” McRae said.

“Anything in his area, he was marking it. His name will come up for consideration. I'd like to see him do it regularly, I'd love to see him do it again. Whether that's with us or VFL, we'll wait and see.”


Collingwood enters a must-win clash on Friday when it faces Geelong at the MCG.